Cornell’s leadership and mentoring initiatives will be strengthened through increased coordination and with deeper integration of community engagement. This was the consensus among the more than 125 faculty and staff who participated the “A New Wave of Leaders” symposium hosted by Engaged Cornell Dec. 8.
The event was organized around three thematic areas – “Uniting Around Community Engagement to Foster Leadership Development,” “Mentoring as an Essential Ingredient for Leadership Development” and “Opportunities and Challenges at Cornell University.” Keynotes and panel discussions with students, faculty, staff and community members, along with breakout sessions and networking, were conceived of by organizers as a first step in a renewed effort to enhance and develop leadership programming and a network of practice around shared competencies and objectives.
“The event reflected Engaged Cornell’s commitment to support an ongoing universitywide conversation about how to invite students into collaborative leadership to address the complex systemic global issues that we face,” said professor Rebecca Stoltzfus, the provost’s fellow for public engagement.
“When each of us walked onto Cornell’s campus, we became leaders of this institution,” said Vice Provost Judith Appleton, director of Engaged Cornell. “Regardless of our position as staff member, faculty member, student – we all lead. Each of us takes action and makes decisions that impact others. That is leadership.”
Appleton’s sentiment was echoed throughout the day, including in the keynote by Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, who began in August.
“As a candidate [for this position] I met with various student leaders … and these students were able to articulate that they [had a passion and] commitment to something larger,” said Lombardi. “And that passion – it was for them about giving back. About doing better in the world, about doing better at Cornell. It told me very quickly that the students get it ... [there is] a real rise in the social consciousness of students of today.”
In his keynote, George Ferrari Jr. ’84, executive director of the Community Foundation of Tompkins County, addressed how to capitalize on the rising student passion that Lombardi spoke about.
“When developing leadership opportunities with community engagement, it’s an opportunity [for students] to be respectful, to be humble, to be accountable to everyone, and to engage in that we’re working on as co-equals,” said Ferrari. “Leadership should not be an extractive process [which] engages the community and takes resources out; it should always have as part of its evaluation: has the community gained capacity, gained power? That would be a new wave of leadership.”
Student panelists described how they have integrated their leadership development at Cornell, including class-based, curricular community engagements and co-curricular opportunities on and off campus.
Robert Hendricks ’17 spoke of a variety of leadership experiences – from classwork with Anke Wessels, executive director of the Center for Transformative Action, to the sprint football team, to the Public Service Center, to student activism leading to the establishment of the soon-to-open Anabel’s grocery store. Hendricks also touted Cornell students’ willingness to work with staff and faculty to strengthen and extend these types of opportunities.
“Many attendees expressed a renewed sense of hope and possibility,” said Mike Bishop, who started Dec. 1 as director of leadership initiatives for Engaged Cornell. “There was good relationship-building across areas that were, until [this event], unknown to one another.”
Bishop said he will turn his attention to reanimating the dormant Student Leadership Educators Network and looks forward to “an expanded conversation like this with students, faculty, staff, alumni and partners from Cornell’s off-campus communities, locally and globally.”
Aaron Goldweber is communications director for Engaged Cornell.